Tens of thousands of supporters gathered in Caracas today for a huge rally in support of Venezuela's ill President Hugo Chavez. The gathering was in response to the controversy surrounding his absence on January 10, the date set for his inauguration day after he was re-elected for a new six-year term in October.
Still in Havana recovering from surgery, the Venezuelan head of state could not be present for the customary swearing-in before the National Assembly. The absence has generated much controversy among the Venezuelan opposition, who claim the government should not continue in power without the inauguration ceremony.
In response, the Chavez government organised a huge concentration in the center of Caracas on January 10 with the participation of representatives from 27 different Latin American countries to support the continuation of the Chavez government for the new constitutional term of 2013-2019.
From the early morning hours, tens of thousands of Chavez supporters congregated in various areas of the capital city in yet another show of the immense capacity for mobilisation for which the Bolivarian revolution, led by the Chavez government, is well known.
Venezuela's social movements and the the Bolivarian militias went out into the streets of Caracas to support Chavez, and the Bolivarian revolution. Many people brought their constitutions and waved placards saying “yo soy Chavez” (I am Chavez) to signify that the president's influence goes beyond his person, and he represents a movement and an idea.
A seemingly endless sea of red-clad supporters filled the streets surrounding the presidential palace and the adjoining areas in a very festive atmosphere, many holding posters of Chavez.
(See Venezuela Analysis's photo essay of the giant rally in support of the Bolivarian revolution)
Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other state officials arrived to the rally in the early afternoon accompanied by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, as well as several other diplomats and leaders from other Latin American and Caribbean countries.
One by one, the Latin American leaders addressed the concentration with emotive speeches in support of the Chavez government and calls for solidarity with the ailing president.
“Who said Hugo Chavez is absent?,” said former Paraguyan president Fernando Lugo, who was overthrown in a legislative coup backed by Paraguay's land-owning oligarchy. “He is present here in the women, in the farmers.
“Chavez is not only the patrimony of Venezuela, but of all Latin America.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales stressed the importance of the Chavez government for the unity among Latin American countries, and called for more rallies in support of Chavez throughout the region.
“My friends, the situation of our brother Hugo Chavez is not only a concern of the Venezuelan people, but of all those who are a part of this struggle,” he said. “The best tribute and solidarity with Chavez is unity, let’s keep unity between our countries.”
Several leaders of Caribbean and Central American countries also addressed the rally with strong messages of solidarity and support for the Chavez government.
“We are fervently supporting Venezuela, and we are here to say to our friend [Vice President] Maduro that although your leader is going through a difficult time, you can count on Dominica as a relia
ble friend,” said the president of Dominica, Eliud Williams.
“Venezuela has converted itself into that guiding light for Latin America that the Cuban Revolution was in the 1960s,” said El Salvador's vice president, and member of the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, Sanchez Ceren.
Various foreign leaders expressed their amazement with the size of the concentration, and the Chavez government’s great capacity for mobilisation.
“I want to say that this gathering of Chavez supporters is really enviable, this capacity for mobilisation that you have,” said Morales.
“This is the largest concentration of people that I have ever addressed in my life,” said the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves.
The rally was broadcast on live television across the country, including the mandatory broadcast of the leaders’ speeches on the private news channels that were ignoring the event.
The unanimous support for the Chavez government among the region’s leaders seemed to further solidify the government’s victory in the recent feud over the constitution.
On January 9, Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled against the opposition’s interpretation of the constitution, and clarified that the January 10 inauguration was not necessary for the Chavez government to continue in power for the constitutional period of 2013-2019.
Opposition leaders, however, have criticised the decision, calling it a “coup” and claiming the continuation of the Chavez government is illegal.
Maduro ended the rally with a passionate speech reminiscent of those given by Chavez at these types of events, and accused the opposition of trying to manipulate events in the country.
“They are trying to manipulate and opportunistically take advantage of the circumstances of Chavez’s situation in order to destabilise the country,” said Maduro.
“Yet however they come after us, we always beat them. Here we are ready to continue with this revolution. Make no mistake, here the people have demonstrated their strength.”
[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]